How Socially Connected are You?
For a period of time, the small Italian Pennsylvania town of Roseto had half the number of heart attacks per capita as neighboring towns. What made them special – they were nourished by people!
Then the town became Americanized. As they blended into traditional American society their strong family and community ties eroded. Sadly, so did their protection against heart attacks.
Roseto was shifting from its initially highly homogeneous social order – made up of three-generation households with strong commitments to religion and to traditional values and practices – to a less cohesive, materialistic, more Americanized community in which three-generation households were uncommon and inter-ethnic marriages became the norm.
More Evidence on the Importance of Being Socially Connected
In today’s society, there is almost an age-apartheid – we work and socialize in age-segregated worlds. There is now evidence that this generational segregation is not healthy for older adults, and can lead to alienation, loneliness, and shorter lives. There is also evidence that interaction between generations is healthy for the younger sets as well.
How do you stimulate this type of inter-generational interaction? Well, in the UK there are a growing number of inter-generational programs by design – like cooking schools.
It turns out that the health benefits of being socially connected are not limited to cohesive, ethnically similar communities like Roseto. Recent large-scale studies have found that people who have strong ties with family, co-workers and friends are 50 percent less likely to die over a given period of time.
This impact also shows up when you compare neighborhoods – those who interact frequently with their neighbors have 70% fewer heart attacks.
The takeaway! Weak social relationships are just as important to health as other common risk factors like smoking, lack of exercise or obesity.
As we get older there are numerous reasons for social relationships to decline. Sadly, some of our friends pass away, others move away, schedules are busy and some of us become less mobile.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Technology makes it much easier and cheaper to stay connected with friends and family who are at a distance. FaceTime and other ways to connect via video can make the experience even richer.
Technology also makes it easy to make new friends. Websites like meetup.com focus on “neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something…” Check it out, it is a great way to meet people with similar interests and get connected -whether you want to go dancing, hiking, learn to use Facebook and much more.
Similarly, private social networks for neighborhoods like Nextdoor can help you learn what is going on around you. Over 111,000 neighborhoods across the country use Nextdoor. Maybe there is already one for your neighborhood. Or, it may take you to get one started. If the idea of setting it up intimidates you, approach one of your younger neighbors.
By the way, it is free.
In Martinez, California over 2300 adults are part of the Martinez Bocce Federation. Every day of the week over 350 people gather at the courts for some friendly competition, a lot of social interaction and fun. All ages of adults participate but Boomers and people in their 80’s and 90’s are typical.
It doesn’t have to be Bocce! Use sites like meetup.com to find out all the interesting things you could be doing in your neck of the woods and get socially engaged.
Check out the video : Bocce Beyond the Ball.